President Ramaphosa addressed the nation on 15 August 2020 to provide an update on the national effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The President confirmed that the number of new confirmed cases has dropped from a peak of over 12 000 cases per day to an average over the past week of around 5 000 cases per day. The recovery rate from the coronavirus now stands at 80%, which is a 48% rise since the last Presidential address, with the number of active cases declining every day and which now stand at around 105 000 active cases.
As at 15 August 2020, 11 667 people are confirmed to have died from the coronavirus in South Africa. The coronavirus has peaked in several provinces, including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and possibly in KwaZulu-Natal. Fewer people are requiring admission to hospitals and the demand for coronavirus tests has dropped. The number of patients hospitalised has decreased from 10 000 cases at the beginning of August 2020 to around 4 000 cases currently.
The President emphasised that although South Africa continues to ease restrictions, the risk of infection does not diminish but increases as more people return to work with there being more opportunities to move around and to interact with another.
Social distancing must continue to be observed, with a cloth mask that covers one’s nose and mouth to be worn every time one leaves their home. Social gatherings must be avoided and one must remember to regularly wash or sanitise their hands as a large proportion of people who are infected with the coronavirus do not show symptoms and may not know that they are infected.
With the above in mind, Cabinet has decided to extend the national state of disaster until 15 September 2020 and to place the entire country on alert level 2 with effect from midnight on Monday, 17 August 2020. This means that that nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries can be removed, with the following changes taking effect under alert level 2:
- All restrictions on inter-provincial travel will be lifted;
- Accommodation, hospitality venues and tours will be permitted according to approved protocols to ensure social distancing;
- Restaurants, bars and taverns will be permitted to operate according to approved protocols as to times of operation and numbers of people;
- Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted;
- The suspension of the sale of alcohol will be lifted, subject to certain restrictions;
- Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only up until 10pm;
- Liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday during the hours of 9am to 5pm only;
- Restrictions on family and social visits will also be lifted, although everyone is urged to exercise extreme caution and to undertake such visits only if necessary;
- Current restrictions on international travel will remain in place;
- No gatherings of more than 50 people will be permitted. Among others, this includes funerals and religious events; and
- The national curfew will remain in place between the hours of 10pm and 4am.
Although not mentioned in the President’s address, parks, beaches and nature reserves will be open for outdoor activity, and gyms and fitness centres will reopen with strict health and safety protocols in place. Spectators will not be permitted at sporting events.
The President encouraged people to stay at home if they can and, if possible, to work from home, especially if they are over the age of 60 years old or have underlying conditions. The coronavirus will remain in South Africa for many months to come as economic activity is resumed and it will take a long time for industries and businesses to recover from the effects of the coronavirus.
Author: Blaine Saunders